Allen Norwood

The new look for appliances: Black stainless steel

Kitchen trends, like fashion trends, can seem to loop back on themselves: First we had to replace our hopelessly dated white appliances with black, then upgrade the black to de rigueur stainless steel. Now comes – are you ready? – black stainless steel.

KitchenAid introduced its version of black stainless last year, and you'll find its kitchen appliances in local showrooms. Last summer, TV hostess Rachael Ray awarded the winners of a national makeover contest a kitchen full of black stainless appliances from LG.

Samsung drew crowds when it featured its interpretation in a booth full of black stainless appliances at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas just last month.

“We got to preview (Samsung's black stainless) in Vegas,” said Bill Pleasants Jr., general manager of Plaza Appliance Mart. “It's beautiful. There's a tint of blue.”

KitchenAid offers refrigerators and wall ovens, microwaves and a dishwasher in black stainless. A cooktop hood of black stainless steel completes the look.

Black stainless can dress up the laundry room, too. In Las Vegas, Samsung displayed a front-loading washer and dryer combo in black stainless.

Black stainless has a less shiny, less industrial look than traditional stainless. That might make it pair well with the softer finishes of honed stone and matte tile that are growing in popularity.

The manufacturers say it resists fingerprints better than traditional stainless, a big plus if there are kids in the house.

Electrolux, with its North American headquarters in Charlotte, hasn't announced whether it will offer black stainless. Overwhelmingly, consumers list traditional stainless as their favorite finish, said Electrolux spokesperson Eloise Hale. Those same consumers list fingerprints as their biggest complaint with traditional stainless, and Electrolux offers smudge-proof finishes across its Frigidaire Gallery and Frigidaire Professional lines.

(The company recently has introduced connected appliances, including a sleek window air conditioner you can control with your smart phone, and an oven that allows you to set the temperature and watch your food cooking from your phone.)

Black stainless typically is available on select upper-end appliances. Pleasants said it costs a bit more than the same appliances would cost in traditional stainless.

You can see and compare the offerings on the manufacturers' online sites:,, Or, on the sites of dealers like Plaza (

Interest in black stainless has been picking up in Plaza's five area locations, Pleasants said.

Most sales have been entire kitchens, even though some promotional pictures show black stainless steel appliances paired with traditional stainless. “Most people do it all,” he said. “They don't normally piecemeal this. Most sales have been remodels or new construction.”

Will black stainless replace traditional stainless steel as the most popular appliance finish in kitchens across America?

Well, the jury – or rather the buying public – is still making up its mind.

Consumer Reports wrestled with that question in a story last fall. The answer? Black stainless is a stylish alternative for those who don't want the industrial look of traditional stainless, but will probably be a niche product for a while.

Pleasants, who has seen other finishes come and go without nudging traditional stainless aside as most popular, is taking the wait-and-see approach. “Nobody really knows until you get the consumer engaged... But it is beautiful.”

Allen Norwood: